Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Reading Envy Podcast Episode 008: Gone Rogue

In this episode, Jenny goes rogue and interviews some of her colleagues at Furman University about what they have been reading lately. You will witness how lucky she is to have these people around to talk about books on a daily basis!

Steve Richardson, who has been a librarian at Furman for twenty-eight years, talked about one man's journey from Holland to Constantinople. 

A Time of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor

Steve also mentioned:
Between the Woods and the Water by Patrick Leigh Fermor
The Broken Road by Patrick Leigh Fermor
Arts & Letters Daily
Furman University Libraries

Jenny also mentioned:
"That book Fermor wrote about the Caribbean"-
The Traveller's Tree: A Journey Through the Caribbean Islands
George Orwell Diaries (also discussed at length on Episode 007)

Guest number two is Libby Young.  Libby is also a librarian at Furman, who likes to read fiction of all varieties.  We share lists from our respective book clubs to keep up with what everyone in town is reading.

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

Libby also mentioned:
Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe in Asheville, NC
Room by Emma Donoghue
A Fine Balance by Rohinton Minstry
City of Thieves by David Banioff
The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

Jenny also mentioned:
97 Orchard: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement by Jane Ziegelman

The last guest for this episode is Mike Winiski. Mike works in the Center for Teaching and Learning at the same university, and also works in the same library building as Jenny, Steve, and Libby.  His love for non-fiction and recent forays into science fiction have influenced his reading lately.

Red Rising (Red Rising Trilogy #1) by Pierce Brown

Mike also mentioned:
The Martian by Andy Weir
Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey
The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey
Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing
Mawson's Will by Leonard Bickel
Philip K. Dick
The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
The Devil & Sherlock Holmes by David Grann
Wired for Story by Lisa Cron
Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy

Jenny also mentioned:
The Girl in the Road by Monica Byrne
The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human by Jonathan Gottschall

Download or listen via this link: Episode 008

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Thursday, July 3, 2014

Jenny's Books Added June 2014 - two stacks!

This has been a busy book month for some reason.  I would blame used book stores but this first stack is completely made up of books I got through trades at paperbackswap.com.  The used book store stack is substantial enough to be listed separately.  Gulp.

Physical Audiobooks:
The Ballad of the Sad Cafe by Carson McCullers, read by David LeDoux, Joe Barrett, Thérése Plummer, Kevin Pariseau, Suzanne Toren, Edoardo Ballerini, and Barbara Rosenblat (my review)
Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote, read by Michael C. Hall (my review)

Both of these are review copies that I asked for from Brilliance Audio, one because of the reader (Michael C. Hall, the actor from Six Feet Under and Dexter), the other because I'm trying to read more southern lit.

Physical books:
The Fall of the Towers by Samuel R. Delany
Granta: The First Twenty-One Years
Granta 81: Best of Young British Novelists 2003
Granta 78: Bad Company

Granta 76: Music 
Granta 61: The Sea 

The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle
The Bone People by Keri Hume
Persuasion by Jane Austen
The Book of Madness and Cures by Regina O'Melveny
A Gesture Life by Chang-Rae Lee

I stumbled across Granta Magazine which is a literary publication full of short stories, the style of a paperback rather than a slim glossy publication like Harpers, Oxford American, etc.  I stumbled across one in Paperbackswap.com, "The Sea," when I was looking for Orhan Pamuk.  I've been on a short story kick and I hope it lasts through trying some of these volumes.  The others were chosen because of authors or themes, sometimes both.  They are strong candidates for airplane reading on Saturday.

The Boyle, Hume, and Austen are all specific editions that I wanted because of the cover... she says sheepishly.  The links go to the correct edition.  Penguin Ink and Penguin Classics.

I'm reading the O'Melveny for my in-person book club in 2014-15, the Chang-Rae Lee for the Open Book Series, and the Delany for my 2014 reading goals.

Okay, onward to physical book pile #2, known as "I only meant to browse at the used bookstore but then I had credits burning a hole in my pocket and I was in the mood for mighty tomes!"

It's funny because every book in this stack was chosen because of previously positive experience with the author. I just finished the Witches of Eastwick today, so the widows are certainly in my future.  I loved Mating by Norman Rush, several by Pynchon, The End of the Affair by Greene, and I wanted to own the parable books by Butler.  The Sword & Laser group is reading the first book of Lilith's Brood for July, and I found the trilogy bound as one $3 volume.  What can you do when the universe clearly wants you to go home with a book? I only paid $1 for this pile because I had trade-in credits for the rest.  Book swapping is the way to go, whether in person or in the mail!

My last book purchase for June was an eBook of War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.  I already talked about it a bit earlier this month, and hope to write more about it soon.  It will take several months to get through, in between other books.

Tell me about the books you've brought home recently!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

A Very Special Book Stack

What would you do if it had been ten years since you had been "home?"
And you are headed there for three weeks?
And "home" does not include internet access?

Well, my strategy is to ship books to myself ahead of time.  Growing up in my family I could read as many books as I could carry and play the piano as many hours as I wanted, but television had to be educational and no more than thirty minutes a day.  I understandably didn't watch a lot of tv.

It is fitting that I need to first plan the books I'll bring. I haven't even considered any other part of the trip.  But books, I'll have.

I wandered my room of unread books, I asked friends for advice, and put the box together tonight.  I discovered that I could easily pick a majority of ironic or not-so-ironic titles, and so I have.  At the very least, seeing them will make me smile.

I don't know, do I need to explain them?  The Journey Home? Homeland? My Family and Other Animals? Small World? In the Woods?  Heh.  

Some are for other reasons but the Crux of the pile is home and family. Oh yeah and my Dad is from Yamhill.

I have a bunch of books on my iPad too.  I think I might be okay for three weeks.  I'll be an hour from Powell's if things get desperate.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Reading Envy Episode 007: Top Secret Dance-Off


Ms. Marvel #1 by G. Willow Wilson
Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World by Jane McGonigal


One Human Minute by Stanisław Lem
"The Hedge Knight" from Legends by George R. R. Martin


Diaries by George Orwell
Serena by Ron Rash

Other items of note:
Memoirs Found in a Bathtub by Stanisław Lem
Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson
Jane McGonigal TED Talks
SC Book Festival

And Poland was never part of the USSR.  Jenny would like to express sincere apologies for her complete lack of historical knowledge.  *grin*

Download or listen via this link: Reading Envy, Episode 7

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Or subscribe via iTunes by clicking: Subscribe

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Library Books Mid-June Edition

This past month has been light on bringing books home from the library, because I was extra busy teaching a Storytelling class during our May Experience term.  It was my first time teaching it, which always requires more attention, so I wasn't going to bring home many books that I'd chance not reading by the time they were due! 

Interesting that this stack is 3/4 female authors, and 1/2 science fiction.

Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill
I was talking to our circulation supervisor at the library, and as I always do, wandered the books heading to be reshelved after being checked in.  I kept seeing this on my various friends lists in GoodReads and it sounded like what I needed to take a break from heavier things.  I checked it out and read it the same night, tonight! My review is already up in GoodReads if you are curious.  Relationships, family, career, told through blurbs and thoughts and conversations.  I loved it!

Flowering Judas and Other Stories by Katherine Anne Porter
I can blame my On the Southern Literary Trail group for this book, but I am so glad having this as a June pick brought my attention to it.  Porter was unknown to me but is a masterful short story writer.  Many of these stories are about Mexico, which Porter loved, relationships, and writing.  They were originally published in 1935 although this mottled volume was an expanded edition from 1940, despite what the call number says.  I enjoyed the stories very much, but I am even more interested in the author's life!  Four husbands, drama the whole time.  I'm planning to read her biography someday.  I had some favorite stories, including The Rope and The Jilting of Granny Weatherall.  I managed to bring up the Granny story during a discussion of an eminent-apocalypse police-procedural novel just a few days ago.  They stick with you!

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
Winner of the Nebula award, on the nominations list for the Hugo award, and an earlier pick for the Sword and Laser this year.  I need to read it by June 22, when the book I got from interlibrary loan is due. 

Neptune's Brood by Charles Stross
Another book from the Hugo nomination list. Despite the fact that I quit the first book in this series/trilogy(?) after 100 pages, I decided to give this one a try anyway.  So far I'm glad I did, because it has a lot more complexity to both story and character, and it has even made me chuckle a bit.  I'm past the 100 page mark and I'm hoping to get past the describe-the-economics slump that sent me looking for a palate cleanser.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Summer Reading

I have to admit that I'm an eye-roller.  I roll my eyes at the people who think of summer reading as the time to "read something brainless" or to "take it easy." To me, summer means I have MORE downtime with fewer recitals and meetings that might bleed into evening, fewer conferences and deadlines, and sometimes an actual day off!

I'm the girl who read Gravity's Rainbow on a beach in Mexico.  I read Infinite Jest along with the Summer of Jest group last summer.  That group stuck together and read several more books together, including The Pale King.  Not long ago, people were feeling lethargic, unchallenged, and disconnected.

Obviously the answer to these feelings is to read a more challenging book!  We agreed in less than a day that this summer we would tackle War and Peace.  Unlike last year where there were weeks of planning to read Infinite Jest, we just kind of jumped in, although one kind soul did come up with a schedule involving a certain amount of the book every week and targeting dates for online video chats about the mighty tome.

Today the library where I work was closed for the annual fumigation and carpet cleaning.   What did I do for my day off?  I started reading War and Peace, of course.  I downloaded the Kindle version because I had yet to read a very large book as an eBook.  I'm not sure I'll be happy with this decision, as so far I have to click every time I want to read a footnote or the translation of the French, and seeing it on a separate page isn't quite the same as glancing down to see it in the print.  And the translators of this particular edition kept the French parts French! 

Oh, the translation.  This is an important issue and I did a lot of research about which one to read, which could have been a 1,024 page error.  The article in The New York Review of Books about the newer translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky made my decision easy.  They are pretty much the new champions of Russian literature in English, and made strides towards capturing the best of Tolstoy, including his sentence fragments, repetition of phrases and descriptive language, and quirky word choices. 

So far it has been pretty amusing.  Tolstoy really seems to capture the complicated imperfection nature of his characters.  The reading experience may also be quite educational as I am not ashamed to admit that I know very little about this period of Russian history.  Or Napoleon, for that matter. 

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Jenny's Books Added May 2014

It's time for another edition of the books that followed me home!  I have to say this month is a vibrant pile of books I hope I read someday. 

These books fit pretty nicely into distinct categories.  And all of them have ties to reading communities in the state of South Carolina! 

Category #1 - The SC Book Festival
I went to the SC Book Festival this month, and prior to that had finally read Serena by Ron Rash.  I bought another book of his so I could stand in line for him to sign it (The Cove) and tracked another book down through Paperbackswap (Saints at the River).

Category #2 - International Book Club of the Upstate
I have this wonderful book club; I'm sure I've mentioned it.  In May we had our annual potluck dinner at one of the member's houses, where we swap books we no longer want and discuss potential books for the next year.  Our list had over 60, so it was a long night!  I picked up Lie Down in Darkness and We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families through the swap, and ended up finding copies of Death Comes to Pemberley, La Cucina, City of Thieves, and The Geography of Bliss because they sounded so good during our discussion.  It doesn't matter if they don't end up on the official list for next year, but I will wait to read them in case they do.  I'll find that out at our last meeting of the year, on Monday.  (We break for summer but have a book we're supposed to read during those three months.)

Oh yeah and I've owned The Geography of Bliss three times now.  I enjoyed it the first time but kept giving my copy away.  It is his chapter on Iceland that started my obsession with going there!

Category #3 -  The Open Book Series at the University of South Carolina
I so enjoyed meeting David Mitchell and hearing him speak this past spring that I am clearing my schedule for the five authors coming in the fall for this series.  I have to drive two hours to get there, but I was impressed by the attendance and avid readers showing up for this series!  I've seen a list of the authors coming in the fall although I notice it isn't updated on their website.  David Bajo and Kate Christensen will be two of them, so I decided I should find copies of their books. 

Perhaps Jeff VanderMeer's book Authority doesn't have an immediate connection to South Carolina.  But he spends several weeks every summer at Wofford College in Spartanburg, SC, to run the Shared Worlds writing program for teens.  That's why I've met him, and that's where I first heard him read from the first book in this Southern Reach Trilogy, pre-publication.  However I bought this book in North Carolina.  I was at Malaprop's and couldn't leave empty-handed!  He'll be doing a reading there July 9, but I think I will miss him this year since I may be in Oregon at that time.